A Conversation with Graham Harwood and Jean Demars on Coal Fired Computers at SPACE, June 1st


Coal Fired Computer-500.jpg
YoHa, After Coal Face, 2009

On June 1st media theorist Matthew Fuller will interview Graham Harwood and Jean Demars at SPACE in London for the Coal Fired Computers project by Harwood and Yokokoji (YoHa) that recently premiered at the AV Festival in New Castle, UK. For Harwood, every media used has a series of power relations that comprise its media ecology. The thread that seems to bind his oeuvre is exposing these power structures. (For more, read an interview with Harwood by Michael Connor, published last year to Rhizome.) Continuing with his examinations into the conditions of the marginalized and working class, Coal Fired Computers speculates about the "global fuel reliance, the price of a computer measured against the lives of 318,000 miners with choked up lungs." The work consists of a bank of computers powered by a coal-fired boiler.

Graham Harwood and Yokokoji (YoHa), Coal Fired Computers, 2010
[Installation at the AV Festival, Source: Jon & Alison]

By placing the boiler and computer side-by-side, Coal Fired Computers brings to the fore the “invisible” work force needed to supply the fuel and raw materials necessary for this technology to function, as well as the environmental impact of these energy sources. Laborers from countries like China, Vietnam and India toil in coal mining fields to enable the production of energy to run technology - outsourcing the health and environmental risks of this method to elsewhere.

See below for a video of Graham Harwood discussing Coal Fired Computers:


Required Watching


In this talk, Prof. Coleman presents a cultural history and political analysis of one of the oldest Internet wars, often referred to as "Internet vs Scientology," which in recent times has witnessed a different incarnation in the form of "Project Chanology," which is orchestrated by a group called Anonymous who has led a series of online attacks and real world protests against Scientology. I argue that to understand the significance of these battles and protests, we must examine how the two groups stand in a culturally antipodal relation to each other.

Through this analysis of cultural inversion, Coleman will consider how long-standing liberal ideals take cultural root in the context of these battles, use these two cases to reveal important political transformations in Internet/hacker culture between the mid 1990s and today and finally will map the tension between pleasure/freedom (the "lulz") and moral good ("free speech") found among Anonymous in terms of the tension between liberal freedom and romantic/Nietzschean freedom/pleasure.


Originally via Networked_Performance


Putting the capital in decapitation


Goldin+Senneby, Headless, 2007- (Photo: John Barlow)

As a lead-up to the Headless Conference, co-organizer Ginny Kollak shares her essay “Putting the capital in decapitation” which is excerpted from the brochure accompanying the exhibition “The Office for Parafictional Research Presents Headless: Work by Goldin+Senneby” on view through March 21 at CCS Bard. The Headless Conference is a mini-symposium for this exhibition.

Goldin+Senneby is the identity-resistant “framework for collaboration” established by Stockholm-based artists Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby in 2004. An interest in capitalist logic and networked culture guides their investigative practice, which explores juridical, financial, and spatial infrastructures through performance and role-playing, invented (and often virtual) realities, writing and publishing, and public interventions.

Headless (2007-) is the artists’ ongoing analysis of the shadowy realm of offshore finance. The subject represents a nearly perfect encapsulation of Goldin+Senneby’s many preoccupations, but perhaps its most relevant feature is its provocative and strategic use of masking, secrecy, and withdrawal. The system is evasive by definition: its procedures allow a company’s assets to be protected from taxation or other bureaucratic regulation, and the identities of its owners and their true business practices can be concealed. In spatial terms, examining an offshore company can be thought of as encountering a space that shifts readily from an impenetrable barrier to an empty void—like a hologram, it appears and disappears according to the perspective from which it is viewed. From a moral standpoint, offshore’s slippery visage is just as apt to inspire bored yawns as righteous indignation: one man’s exploitation is another’s tedious paperwork. Still, like most unknown territories, offshore triggers mainly sinister readings. A more anthropomorphic understanding might conceive the offshore company as something monstrous—a decentralized, elusive body that moves without any visible means of control—a ...


Link Round-Up



This clip of protesters in Bil'in, Palestine dressed as Na'vi from James Cameron's Avatar circulated widely across the internet this week, and that, paired with the recent announcement that Avatar is nominated for 9 Oscars, made me feel that it was about time to present a round-up of the more thoughtful articles I've collected on Avatar. Feel free to post links in the comments section - I'm hoping this post can become a resource for those who might be interested in additional reading concerning the film.

► "Avatar and Invisible Republic" by Rob Horning [From PopMatters]


By coincidence, I began reading Greil Marcus’s Invisible Republic, which in part is about the demise of the 1960s folk movement and Bob Dylan’s role in destroying it after having come to exemplify it. The folkies, in Marcus’s depiction, had the same patronizing attitude toward Appalachian poverty and civil-rights injustices (the Other America, as Michael Harrington dubbed it) that the makers of Avatar seem to evince about colonization. Capitalism sullied and exploited the pure rural people, as clear-headed bourgeois liberals can best recognize. To adherents, folk music (and Avatar) offers us glimpses of pre-capitalist America, a “democratic oasis unsullied by commerce or greed” in which art seems “the product of no ego but of the inherent genius of a people.” The Avatar planet is such a product, for the race occupying it and the film-industry execs who made it.

The substance of this fantasy about indigenous people at harmony with their appropriate environment is the denial of individual subjectivity (the overriding value of the folk revival, according to Marcus), which is rendered unnecessary and impossible. Everyone is at one and merged with one another. Just look at the blue people in the movie sway to the unsounded ...


Interview with Temporary Services


Copies of "Art Work: A National Conversation About Art, Labor, and Politics"

Independent, Chicago-based collective Temporary Services, comprised of Brett Bloom, Salem Collo-Julin and Marc Fischer, have been producing exhibitions, events, projects, and publications since 1998. More recently, they published the newspaper and website “Art Work: A National Conversation About Art, Labor, and Politics” which assembles writing by artists, activists and academics about the economic decline and its influence on the livelihood of artists. (I previously posted one article to Rhizome from this collection, "Art Versus Work" by Julia Bryan-Wilson.) I had the opportunity to interview Temporary Services over e-mail, and they answered my questions as a group via Google docs. - Jenny Jaskey

This post is the concluding article in a series on art production and economy. To read the other articles in this series, go here for an interview with Caroline Woolard of OurGoods and here for an interview with Jeff Hnilicka of FEAST.

How did Temporary Services begin?

TS: We began in 1998 as a storefront space that presented experimental art projects and exhibitions. In late 1999 there were several people collaborating in and around Temporary Services. We decided to form a group. Since that time, the group has fluctuated in membership to arrive at the current configuration of Brett Bloom, Salem Collo-Julin and Marc Fischer, which has been stable since 2002.

Your most recent project is a paper and accompanying website, "Art Work: A National Conversation about Art, Labor, and Economics." What led to its development?

TS: We were invited by Christopher Lynn, the director of SPACES Gallery in Cleveland, to organize an exhibition. SPACES is an important art organization that has its origins in the nationwide alternative art spaces infrastructure built in the 1970s, and funded in part by a more adventurous National Endowment for the ...


Cities in Miniature: Ahmet Öğüt's "Exploded City"


Children love Ahmet Öğüt’s Exploded City. Its miniature edifices are suited to the kid’s-eye-view; youthful height allows the same unobstructed vistas into the cityscape as one of its citizens might have. A further draw for children: there’s a model train underfoot (directly; museum security was busy), albeit stationary. And certain of the city's scaled buildings do resemble dollhouses, although there are no dolls here. Nobody lives in the Exploded City; there are no figurines amidst its reproductions. This vacancy is probably for the best, since Öğüt’s piece—on view at the Berkeley Art Museum until April 11, 2010—is composed entirely of models of buildings that have been damaged or destroyed by terrorist strikes since the 1990s. The structures may be in their inviolate form, but nevertheless, human models placed throughout the doomed buildings would impart a macabre note to the city.


Interview with Jeff Hnilicka of FEAST



As the second part of a series on art, labor, and politics, I spoke with Jeff Hnilicka of FEAST, a Brooklyn-based community dinner that funds the work of emerging artists. FEAST will be hosting their next meal tomorrow evening, February 6, from 5-8 p.m. at Church of the Messiah, 129 Russell St, Brooklyn NY. The event is open to the public. - Jenny Jaskey

What is FEAST and how did you begin?

Jeff Hnilicka: FEAST has been going on for a little over a year and runs out of a church basement in Greenpoint. There are around twenty people who help facilitate it. We come from the art world, food world, and design world, and we are connected to ideas of collectivism and immediacy - things like zines, living room dance parties, bike rides, and dinners. Many of us are also involved with Hit Factorie, an artist collective.

FEAST grew out of our desire to investigate the collapse of cultural production in the face of emerging sustainable food production systems that were successful. We wanted to ask “what is localism?” in relation to cultural production and how the structures of a farm co-op translate to an art economy. In the food world, the sustainable is the heirloom - that is the desired experience. In cultural production, the sustainable is relegated to the amateur, the “craft.” But we wondered: can you produce high quality cultural products using a sustainable model? Those were our basic goals. What developed was a dinner party, where around 300 people come to a church basement every couple of months. We ask for $10-20 donations at the door to attend the dinner, although no one is turned away. Artists propose projects over the course of the meal, and the guests select one project to fund. We vote democratically. Whichever ...


Suited for Subversion (2002) - Ralph Borland



Suited for Subversion is a project to create a suit that protects the wearer at large-scale street protests. The suit also monitors the wearer's pulse and projects an amplified heartbeat out of a speaker in the chest of the suit.

I designed and fabricated the first prototype of the suit as part of my Masters Degree in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University. The project draws on my work as an activist involved in street demonstrations in New York, and is influenced by the work of other activists and demonstrators who wear protective clothing and make creative use of tools and technologies for protest.

Of particular influence are the 'white' or ‘white overall’ tactics of the Ya Basta, WOMBLES, or the Tutti bianche, who wear white protective-wear to protests. Like the Pret a revolter clothing line produced by my friends Las Agencias, and pictured below, centre, my suit fuses white tactics with more playful, carnivalesque, or 'pink' tactics. As much as my suit is armour, it is also disarming; as much provocation as protection.



Required Reading


Never mind that the decade really ends in a little over a year, it's time to take stock of it. Today's post looks back at the decade just past while tomorrow's will look at the decade to come.

As I observed before, this decade is marked by atemporality. The greatest symptom of this is our inability to name the decade and, although commentators have tried to dub it the naughties, the aughts, and the 00s (is that pronounced the ooze?), the decade remains, as Paul Krugman suggests, a Big Zero, and we are unable to periodize it. This is not just a matter of linguistic discomfort, its a reflection of the atemporality of network culture. Jean Baudrillard is proved right. History, it seems, came to an end with the millennium, which was a countdown not only to the end of a millennium but also to the end of meaning itself. Perhaps, the Daily Miltonian suggested, we didn't have a name for the decade because it was so bad.


Link »

It's time for my promised set of predictions for the coming decade. It has been a transgression of disciplinary norms for historians to predict the future, but its also quite common among bloggers. So let's treat this as a blogosphere game, nothing more. It'll be interesting to see just how wildly wrong I am a decade from now.

In many respects, the next decade is likely to seem like a hangover after the party of the 2000s (yes, I said party). The good times of the boom were little more than a lie perpetrated by finance, utterly ungrounded in any economy reality, and were not based on any sustainable economic thought. Honestly, it's unclear ...


Notes on Going Under


But the whole discourse of noise-as-threat is bankrupt, positively inimical to the remnants of power that still cling to noise. Forget subversion. The point is self-subversion, overthrowing the power structure in your own head. The enemy is the mind's tendency to systematize, sew up experience, place a distance between itself and immediacy... The goal is OBLIVION. - Simon Reynolds, "Noise"

Replace the word OBLIVION with DE-EVOLUTION and you have encapsulated the essence of the strangest art-music project that ever emerged from Akron, Ohio. While a quintet of jerky ectomorphs in hazmat suits (seemingly) singing about sadomasochism breaching the Billboard Top 20 in 1980 seemed unlikely, the legacy of DEVO is fraught with such contradiction. Formed in 1973, DEVO began as a polemical performance project, became a major buzz band and then crumbled under the weight of the attention they had cultivated. Outside of influencing a generation of musicians and artists, a surface reading would suggest the band only registered a few blips on the broader pop culture radar—"Whip It", their pioneering music video work and a legendary Saturday Night Live performance—but tracing the dramatic arc of DEVO reveals a fascinating back story. While the group might be most easily read in relation to their 1970s Ohio peers Pere Ubu, The Dead Boys or Chi-Pig, more enduring points of reference may be found in the deadpan, dour and decidedly humorless synthpop of Telex, Gary Numan and Kraftwerk. Comparisons notwithstanding, DEVO defied categorization and their creative exploration of emerging technology, hermetic logic and contentious relationship with the mass market make them quite relevant to new media artists—they're just the band you want!